Surfacing & Best Buy?

Good news here. I have just received information that the “Microsoft Surface” which is basically only available at Microsoft’s website will be available through third party retail outlets, including Best Buy starting in January. In addition to the easier availability the newer model of the “Surface” will come with Windows 8 Pro or to Windows 8 RT. I of course recommend the Pro vs. the RT.

It’s important to remember that the “Surface” is the first piece of computer hardware made by Microsoft itself. This in itself is exciting. Once you have Windows 8 Pro operating on a Microsoft Surface I believe that this tablet will truly be a wonder.

Stay tuned for more dedicated readers…..

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Don’t Be Fooled This Holiday Season

The holiday season brings unsolicited email messages pretending to be from delivery services such as FedEx and UPS.

Ignore these! Do Not Click on any links in these email message.

If you do you will probably be sent to a malicious website.

Tip! If you do receive a message from FedEx or UPS and you are worried about a delivery contact the delivery provider directly. Do not respond through the email message.

This is a sample malicious message from FedEx.

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Training Session 7

Thank You to everyone who attended today’s technology training. For those of you who could not attend here is the slideshow we used.

You can make the slideshow full screen by selecting the outward arrow box on the far right of the bottom toolbar.

 

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Time is Running Out for Windows XP

The Time To Upgrade is Now

Did you know that Windows XP has fewer than 500 days left to live?

The 11-year-old operating system will exit support April 8, 2014. What this means is that if you are still using Windows XP after April 8, 2014 Microsoft will no longer support the operating system which includes no more security patches.

Why are so many people continuing to use Windows XP anyway? Well I believe there are a couple of reasons.

1. Windows XP which was released in 2001 was a really good, crisp and easy to use operating system. It worked mostly the same for both consumers (at home) and corporate (at work).

2. Microsoft’s follow-up, “Vista” (2006) was clunky, buggy and therefore never enjoyed wide acceptance in the marketplace. In addition the corporate world never adopted Vista which left out a huge customer base.

3. By the time Windows 8 arrived in 2009 many consumers had lost confidence in Microsoft due in large part to “Vista” and many simply delayed or refused to upgrade to Windows 7. This is unfortunate because Windows 7 was an excellent improved over XP and obviously Vista.

4. Windows 8 is only now premiering and it brings major changes to the Windows interface.

As a result of all of this Microsoft is ending support for XP and the pricing for Windows 8 upgrades have been set very low (about $40.00) in order to entice as many users as possible to finally move off of XP.

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Happy Birthday Text Messaging

Happy Birthday text messaging! Although text messaging could be traced all the way back to 1920 when RCA introduced the first “telex” service the text messaging we have all relied on for years was born on December 3, 1992. It was on this day that Neil Papworth used a personal computer to send the text message “Merry Christmas” via a Vodaphone network to a cellular phone.

Fast forward to 1995 when paging services starting appearing everywhere. It was during the mid and late 1990’s that text messaging really exploded. Just watch a movie or TV shows from this time period and you will often see the characters with pagers on their hip. These text messages were usually limited to 160 characters. Often after reading the text message the recipient had to then go find a phone. Just think about that!

As cellular phones became available and affordable in the late 1990’s “pagers” started disappearing as text messaging become a service of the cellular phone itself. The popularity of smartphones in the mid 2000’s ended the reign of pagers altogether.

Even with all the technical changes and enhancements since 1992 “text messaging” itself has continued to grow in it’s use and with many of us is actually used more then actually using mobile phones for their primary purpose, “talking”.

Services such as “Twitter” are an out growth of that very first text message way back on December 3, 1992.

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Think Before You Click

Did you know that many programs–especially those that are free install additional software on your computer? First it is important to know why they do this. They do this as a form of advertising, and they may make some money off of it.

This situation gives you an additional responsibility, especially if you care enough to keep your computer running efficiently. If you’re not careful about how you install software, you can end up with a lot of unwanted programs. In addition to causing your computer to slow down these programs leave messes all over your PC.

Here is one of the biggest questions I get. “Bill, why don’t antivirus programs block these programs from installing unwanted software?” Well it is because these programs are legal, and because, annoying as they are, they’re not anywhere near as bad as real malware or out and out viruses. In addition these unwanted programs don’t hide their existence.

What’s very important to know is that, in almost every case, you can install the program you want and bypass the unwanted add-on programs. You just have to pay attention while installing and stop clicking before you think.

A good practice when installing programs, especially free ones is that you should never select the “Typical” or “Automated” installation–which will almost certainly be the default. Select the Custom installation or a similar option. Then read each option through the install process and unselect any unwanted programs or add-ons from the install. Not only will you find you can unselect unwanted applications but this is where you can stop the madness of having multiple internet explorer toolbars and search windows. These also will slow down your internet browser.

In the end, the only way to protect yourself from installing unwanted programs and internet browser add-ons is by first, selecting the “advanced” install and unchecking any unwanted options. Think Before You Click!

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Extending Battery Life This Holiday Season

Many of us travel during the holidays. When we travel we take our mobile devices with us.  These devices have batteries that often simply can’t keep up with our busy lives, especially during the holidays . Even if you give yourself plenty of time to make it to make it to your destination, there is not much you can do if your flight is delayed or if traffic is backed up. Not only will delays make you late, but they could also deplete the battery life of your phone and tablet. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to extend battery life and save power.

If your smartphone has a battery case available that adds extra battery life I would recommend one if you travel. Most of these cases have a connector that plugs directly into the phone’s charge port, which is how they deliver the power. These will often triple the life of your battery!

There are also external battery packs. These are usually very small and usually connect your mobile device with a USB cable. If your smartphone does not have a battery case accessory available these are your best bet. These battery cases are also great for tablets.

Saving your battery’s charge can be as simple as tweaking some settings on your phone or tablet.  Here are some changes you can make to prolong battery life when traveling. Each smartphone will have slightly varied ways in which to make these changes but I trust you can figure it out!

Dim the screen: Most phones include an auto-brightness feature that automatically adjusts the screen’s brightness to suit ambient lighting levels and system activity. This mode uses less power than constantly running your screen at full brightness would, but you’ll get even better results by turning your screen’s brightness down to the lowest setting that you can tolerate and leaving it there.

Adjust your screen timeout: When your device has been idle for a certain amount of time, the screen shuts off and goes back to black, thus reserving precious battery life for when you actually need to use it.

Turn off Wi-Fi: If you’re not using Wi-Fi, turn it off. Same goes for Bluetooth.

Turn off, or limit, notifications:  These are the popup notifications from apps such as Facebook, Twitter, CNN etc.

Minimize unneeded apps and options: Speaking of apps, kill unnecessary apps that aren’t in use. Because our smartphones are excellent multitaskers, they tend to keep apps running in the background until they are forced closed. Apps are heavy energy consumers. Once again each smartphone will have different methods of doing this.

Turn on Airplane Mode: This disables all of the wireless features of your device, including cellular data, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, and other location services. Therefor even if you are not flying and you want to simply save as much battery power as possible turning on this feature will help.

Turn off location services:  This will save a lot of power by disabling GPS services.

Turn off vibrate: Vibrating uses much more power than playing a ringtone does. It takes a lot of power to make your smartphone wiggle!

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The Unofficial Return of the Windows 8 "Start" Button.

One of the biggest complaints so far about Windows 8 is the removal of the start button. This is the little Windows button on the bottom left of your Windows screen which launchs a menu listing the programs available on your computer. While I can understand Microsoft’s desire to lure you into their new Metro interface the removal of the classic start button is a mystery to me. Microsoft had to know that several free add-ons making a start button available would be quickly released. After only a couple of weeks post Windows 8 launch several start button applications have indeed been made available (for free).

My favorite is, “Start Menu 8”. The software is designed to be as flexible as you need when setting up your own personalized start menu. You could almost use Start Menu 8 as a complete fullscreen replacement for the desktop, though that is certainly not the intended purpose. Start Menu 8 includes a somewhat unique feature, in that it allows the computer to boot straight to the desktop to give the whole experience a feel that is much more like “traditional” Windows experiences. Microsoft probably really hates this as it allow you to avoid the Metro interface altogether on boot.

The design is such that you should never feel the need to use the Windows 8 Start screen at all. Your programs, settings, and folder system are all accessible here, as well as all the Control Panel features and screen controls. Of course, there’s nothing stopping you from using the Windows 8 Start screen and switching between the two experiences is pretty simple, which is what I reccomend. Pressing the Windows key on the keyboard will still return you to the new Windows 8 Start, which neatly allows you to emplore both experiences.

Start Menu 8 is available for free, but there are no shortage of hooks in the program to try and get you to upgrade to the pro version.

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Not Just Yet Windows 8 Phone

Windows 8 Phone I Hardly Knew You

The Short Life of a Windows 8 Phone

I was able to get my hands on a Windows 8 Phone and 24 hours later I found myself going back to my iPhone5. Why? After all I have been following Microsoft closely for the past year and I really like their push towards a unified operating system across all platforms. I also believe that the new Windows 8 operating system brings innovation to a company that only a few years ago was staggering in respect to the mass consumer market. Microsoft, with their Windows line of software and Outlook products has a stranglehold on enterprise customers. This is not in doubt. However the mass consumer market has been flocking in droves to Apple and a lesser degree Android. Microsoft obviously has made a decision to get into the consumer market game and I believe that they are on the right track. However, and this pains me to say, the Windows 8 phone is not quite ready for prime time. My experience is with the HTC Windows Phone 8X.

The Good

The operating system is a great fresh design. In place of flat icons you get “live” tiles that display content like news, weather and photos. The navigation has a great ease to it and it look really really dynamic. Moving the tiles around and designing your layout is also very easy. The “store” is also nicely designed and the process of finding apps, downloading and installing is also well thought out.

Out of the box, Microsoft Office is built in and is easily linked to your Skydrive and Sharepoint accounts. The setup could not be any easier and the application use is mastered in minutes. This I will miss the most.

The Bad

The HTC Windows Phone 8X is limited to a built in 16GB with no expansion slot. That’s right. No expansion slot. This shocks me. In today’s consumer market these devices are used for music, video and more. After the 3GB of space needed for the OS (operating system) you are left with under 13GB. This is simply not enough for many users and this alone will deter many from switching to this device. I also discovered that most Windows 8 phones are limited to the 16GB storage.

I admit it. I love my apps. The Windows store has about 120,000 apps while Apple’s store has over 700,000. This will surely improve over time as developers start to write applications for Windows 8. The success of the app store will also depend on the success of the Windows 8 phones. It’s kind of a “Catch-22” for Microsoft. Why would a developer take time and money to design a Windows 8 app if the customer base remains small? While at the same time, most users will probably remain with Android & Apple simply because there are more things they can do with those phones as compared to the Windows 8 phones. Microsoft needs to intice these developers as much as possible to write applications for their platform if they want to succeed in the smartphone market. I am hoping for the best here because I really do want to see Microsoft succeed.

The music app is a bit too complex. Music apps should have an ease of use quality. This is simply because users are often physically involved in other activities such as walking, running or working out while listening to their music. The Windows 8 built in app (remember Zune anybody), although nice to look at requires much thought & action then it should.

The Future?

Windows 8 is not going anywhere and Microsoft is working hard to push this into the marketplace. However unless the Windows 8 phone can be improved soon it will be DOA before it has a chance to succeed. This would be very unfortunate as with RIM’s demise there is a real opportunity and need for a reliable work and home smartphone platform, other then Apple & Android.

I have not given up. I will be keeping a close eye on the continued development of the Windows 8 phones. The app store must grow & additional memory storage must be available otherwise I fear for this very capable smartphone platform.

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Microsoft’s BIG Year – 2013

The year 2013 is really really important in respect to Microsoft’s future. Here are some of the highlight’s of what is happening in 2013 with Microsoft. Microsoft is obviously hoping that these new products will increase their presence in both our professional and personal lives.

Advertising

Microsoft’s advertising campaign is actually catchy & fun which is something that Microsoft has always struggled with. Microsoft’s new advertising campaign actually make me forget these 2 guys.

Windows 8

This new operating system which comes in various flavors will seemingly be everywhere next year. Windows 8 actually arrived in the last quarter of 2012. I have been using it for the past several months. This is a new and exciting operating system. Not since Windows 95 has Microsoft been this innovative. There will be surely be some push back from business. This is because it is so very different from prvious versions of Windows. However I believe it will actually be accepted in the business world much faster then Windows 7 was.

Windows 8 has 4 flavors. This will probably be somewhat confusing to the masses. This necessary due to the unique needs and abilities of each platform. However on the surface windows 8 will look and feel the same regardliess of the platform you are on.

Tablets

The Microsoft Surface is the first piece of actual hardware Microsoft has built on it’s own. This is big news on it’s own merit. I have not had a chance to actually use one of these yet and the reviews have been admittingly mixed. I believe that the mixed reviews are the result of the limitations of the “Windows RT” operating system. The RT version of Windows 8 is simular in nature as Apple’s IPAD operating system. Users are restricted to the APP store for applications. The Surface does come with Microsoft Office loaded however there is no Outlook. This is also be dissapointing to many.

However by the end of the year other manufactorer’s such as DELL and HP will be releasing their own Windows 8 tablets which will be running “Windows 8 Pro” as opposed to “RT”. This is the same version of Windows that PC’s will be running. This version of Windows provides the ability to install any application, from any source in addition to access to the APP store. These tablets will begin the merging of tablets and laptops for the first time. These next generation Windows 8 tablets are the ones which should find success and the ones I am most excitied about.

Smartphones

Windows 8 smartphones are about to hit the market. These smartphones have been receiving high praise from most in the tech world who have had a chance to use them. With RIM reeling, these Windows 8 phones will offer the professional a new opportunity to use a smartphone that has the fun factor while being a powerful work device. With Microsoft Office and SkyDrive built in working on the go will never be easier.

Microsoft Office 2013

Microsoft’s newest version of Office will officially become available in early 2013. Their tablets and smartphones already have this built in. I have been using the “consomer preview” for months now. This new office is really a subscriber based solution with customers paying a small monthly fee for access. With your subscription, access to your files is available across all of these platforms. With SkyDrive access is available to your files on any PC, even without Office installed. Office 2013 also provides the ability to link social media servcies such as facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to your account.

I may not be 100% accurate in my 2013 prediction for Microsoft but one thing is for certain. Next year will be a truly busy year for Microsoft and it will be fun to watch to see what happens and how successful Microsoft can be.

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